Industry attracting talent, but still needs boost in positioning

Bored of hearing that talent is the number one issue for the PR industry?

Bored of hearing that talent is the number one issue for the PR industry?

Too bad, because it's a theme that bears repeating again and again. This week's issue and accompanying Career Guide include a range of information on the industry's ever-increasing need to recruit not just the good, but the great, and to increase its attraction to individuals from other industries and specialties.

But careful readers of PRWeek will notice that a new tone has crept into our coverage of the talent issue. That's because a new, tougher tone has found its way into the industry, and that's a positive thing. Résumés may be flying all over the place, as people take advantage of a good market, but that doesn't mean every warm body will find a home and a new, fancy title. Prospective employees may have more opportunities, but before they get a new nameplate, they must prove they'll add significant levels of expertise to any role.

In addition, recruitment operations in agencies have grown increasingly sophisticated, populated by experienced professionals whose relevance to their organizations is highly prized. Think anyone is dismissing these people as mere overhead anymore? Not a chance. Not that recruitment belongs in a silo - senior executives are actively engaged in the talent search.

Standards have been raised across the board. But there is still much work to be done before the profession is turning away buses of law school graduates and MBAs, as well as communications majors. Agencies can seem clotted at the junior level, with a perplexing assortment of titles and marginally shifting areas of responsibility. While in some organizations this structure probably makes sense, in others it seems like an exercise in ego-massaging to maintain stability.

This can create expectations that are simply impossible to sustain and lead to the kind of job-hopping that creates a precarious position for the agency business.

In-house teams can struggle to retain more junior people when their peer group internally is small and their career path less obvious. Proving that these roles add value to the organization can be a tough sell.

But PR agencies continue to find recruiting tougher than in-house counterparts - at many levels. Name-brand corporations will often have an advantage over firms with less household-name appeal. But this is not the only perception problem for agencies, and we will look deeper into this issue in the coming months.

The industry as a whole could use a little more confident positioning. When young people picture a career in advertising, they see themselves in glamorous surroundings, helping to create exciting campaigns for the world's biggest brands. That's largely a fantasy world, to be sure, but where is the corresponding buzz that surrounds the prospective PR career?

If commercials for the US Army can make even me momentarily want to enlist, surely there is a way to stimulate the imaginations of talented newcomers to the profession through the varied and challenging work that PR people do. That continues to be a problem for agencies and corporations alike.

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